Buying property in France

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The Independent Online
CHOOSE the right home in the right place and don't expect to make a fortune. That is the advice of Gareth and Clare David, who fell in love with a cottage in Brittany at the height of the property boom in 1989, and still feel happy with their weekend home.

'We probably did it completely the wrong way,' Gareth admits. 'We saw the place on a hot summer's afternoon in the relaxed glow of a holiday and bought it straight away.'

That sort of impulsiveness has turned many a charming relic into a nightmare, with winter weekends spent struggling to keep rain from coming down through the roof while mortgage rates travelled in the opposite direction.

The Davids might have been in that predicament today. Money is much tighter, they have a small child and are about to have another. But they made most of the right moves in choosing the cottage.

'We spent a few thousand on redecoration, but basically the place was sound as a bell,' Gareth says. Just as important, it is in the centre of a village and within easy drive of the ferry port of St Malo. Living in the middle of nowhere may seem romantic but it deters the holiday tenants you need to keep the bills paid.

'We were booked solidly all last season and have already had one for the start of this year,' Gareth says. That still leaves them about pounds 1,000 a year short on repayments for the pounds 19,000 French mortgage, but he feels it's a low price to pay for regular holidays and a solid asset. 'It cost pounds 37,000 but, frankly, I don't know how much it is worth now - and don't much care. You cannot buy a home like this and expect to make a big profit quickly.'

Making the right moves does not stop with the purchase. The Davids made a point of speaking French and getting to know the people in the village, so they are now treated more as locals than outsiders. As good neighbours, they also allow the bar owner across the road to use the garage for nothing as a store. But that also means there is always someone to keep an eye on the place while it is empty.

The bonhomie has extended to visitors. A group of friends using the place for the New Year holiday arrived home to report that they had been invited across the road en masse for a six-course dinner.

(Photograph omitted)